“Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” -Hausa Proverb
We all know that stress is bad and positive thinking is good. Too much stress can cause an alarming amount of psychological and health issues, including anxiety, high blood pressure, and IBS, just to name a few. However, just the simple act of thinking more positively can drastically reduce the chance of suffering from those problems. But it’s not always that easy to “just be happy.”
Unfortunately, I’ve dealt with anxiety my whole life, but these past few weeks have been tougher than usual to the point that I made myself sick. I really had to be conscious about what I ate, how much I rested, and what I did in order to try to relax my body as much as possible. During this time, I decided it was time to begin researching alternate ways of thinking, living, and coping in order to get a handle on my anxiety.
One thing that I found all over the internet was something called a gratitude journal. I posted about this on my Instagram a few days ago. I don’t know if you’ve heard about this yet, but there’s a ton of research out there right now about gratitude and the immense benefits that it can have on our lives.
The Theory Behind It
Jason Marsh of the Greater Good Magazine says, “keeping a gratitude journal — or perhaps the entire experience of gratitude — is really about forcing ourselves to pay attention to the good things in life we’d otherwise take for granted. It’s easy to get numb to the regular sources of goodness in our lives.”
According to an article in Forbes, expressing gratitude offers several scientific benefits, including enhanced empathy, improved sleep quality, increased mental strength, and improved physical and psychological health. They say that the physical act of writing down what you’re grateful for is more effective than just thinking it (mindful.org). I am a huge fan of journaling in general, so I had to try this.
There are some studies that claim that journaling every day is beneficial, while others suggest that it’s better to write two to three times a week. Some people say that they write fully fleshed out paragraphs about one or two things that they’re grateful for. Other people say that they prefer to write up to ten, one-word items that illicit happy, grateful thoughts.
Being the over-thinker that I am, I deliberated for a while until I decided that the best way for me was to list five, somewhat detailed items every \night before I go to bed. This way, I have all of the experiences of the day to reflect upon, and I can maximize the results. I don’t always have the time to sit down and write in my journal every single night, so, at times like that, I will list my five items in my phone and then transcribe them to my journal later.
I’ve been journaling for eight days straight now and while I’m not a completely different person, I can already feel a difference in how I have begun to think. Some days, I find myself noticing positive things that happen throughout the day, and I make a mental note to write them down later. And then other days, it’s hard to even think of one thing that I’m grateful for, but those are the days in which I’m forced to reflect on my day even more, which increases mindfulness. That’s really the whole goal, right?
I think that expressing gratitude through journaling is such a good thing to get in the habit of doing, and I have even encouraged my husband and mom to try it, too! I challenge you to try this (for a month or even a week) and see how it affects your life.